Netbooks, and other small ultra-portable computers including Windows tablets, are well loved because of their small footprint and light weight. However, netbooks are far less powerful than the typical notebook PC, which means they can have trouble running applications that other PCs have no problem with.
This means that anyone who wants a snappy netbook needs to pick the best netbook applications. Finding and judging the best netbook applications can take some time, which is why I’ve handled it for you.
Best Antivirus: Panda Cloud Antivirus
Picking an antivirus program for a netbook is tricky because of the limited system resources available. All antivirus software has the potential to become a real resource hog, because the process of shifting through files in search of virus signatures isn’t easy.
There are a number of relatively lightweight antivirus programs, however, and Panda Cloud Antivirus is at the top. It’s intuitive, quick, and provides solid protection. I will admit that this spot was hotly contested, however. If you’re not happy with Panda, try Avast! free edition or Microsoft Security Essentials.
Best Browser: Google Chrome
Honestly, there wasn’t much of a contest here. Google Chrome is incredibly light on system resources and does almost everything that you could want a browser to do.
I have occasionally run into websites that failed to support Chrome properly, but you can always keep a backup of Internet Explorer installed for those very rare situations.
Best Desktop Enchancement: 360Desktop
Netbooks have small displays. This is a disadvantage that is common in small devices, and one that can feel very limiting. Fortuantely, 360Desktop can help you get around this problem. No, it doesn’t magically make your display larger, but it does virtually enlarge it and provides the ability to scroll across it. This provides you with more usable space on the same small display.
Best Office Suite: Google Docs
The decision to include Google Docs as the pick for best netbook office suite, rather than OpenOffice/LibreOffice or any other contender, is related to the small footprint of Google Chrome. If you’re already using Chrome on your netbook, as recommended, it only makes sense to use Google Docs. This has a very low impact on system resources but provides common office suite functionality.
Best Image Editor: Fotograpfix
There are a lot of image editing programs to choose from these days, but out of all of them I think Fotograpfix is the best for netbooks. Although the program isn’t very pretty, and doesn’t match the functionality of GIMP, Fotograpfix does include all the basic image editing features. It’s absurdly light, as well – if Windows Task Manager can be trusted, it typically uses less system resources than Mozilla Firefox with a single tab open. That’s not bad at all!
Best Resource Monitor: TinyResMeter
System resources on a netbook are important. They’re the entire reason I’m writing this blog post. With only so much to go around, you need to keep tabs on what is available and what isn’t.
TinyResMeter is a great way to do that. This light, customizable application provides information about your netbook without consuming much resources itself. It can monitor a huge range of variables including not only common items, such as available RAM, but also more obscure information such as current hard drive disk speed.
Best Game Platform: Impulse
Steam generally takes the cake when it comes to gaming on a PC, but it can be a bit unwieldy on a netbook. Steam itself always runs in the background, and I’ve found that during sales the pop-up Windows loaded by Steam can take some time to appear on a netbook.
Impulse is a solid alternative that provides many of the same functions. Although the game selection and social networking features aren’t as good as Steam’s, Impulse has an advantage – it can be shut off completely, and you can still play the games you purchased. Impulse also has a good selection of obscure indie titles that tend to be less demanding on system resources.
Obviously, there is always going to be some debate about the programs that are best for netbooks. There are also a lot of categories of software – I covered those I think most relevant, but if you have a favorite program that wasn’t included here, please post it in the comments.
Image Credit: Ward’s Kitchen
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